Salvage crews battling to contain the environmental damage from the stranded ship Rena leaking oil off New Zealand were unable to resume pumping out fuel Thursday.
The Rena, which Mediterranean Shipping Co. chartered from Costamare, has already spilled hundreds of metric tons of oil. Workers are trying to drain the fuel before waves break up the vessel, which began to break crack apart after it became stranded on the Astrolabe Reef, some 14 miles off the coast of the Port of Tauranga on Oct. 5.
Salvage workers hope to cut a hole in the hull of the stricken ship to allow them to transfer oil to a barge. A salvage team spent about five hours on Thursday aboard the Rena, which is listing 20 degrees, assessing damage and working out how best to remove some of the 1,300 metric tons of heavy fuel oil still on board.
The calmest weather in days allowed the crews to get back aboard the ship, but the complexity of their task dashed earlier hopes they might resume pumping, according to Maritime New Zealand, the manager of the salvage operation. Bruce Anderson, MNZ salvage manager, said salvors believe that working on the ship is too dangerous. Crews began attaching four platforms to the port side of the vessel Thursday to form a flat surface for pumping out the port tanks.
Environmentalists have warned of a disaster for wildlife if all the ship's oil and diesel fuel is allowed to spill into the ocean. Several of the 88 containers that fell off its deck have washed ashore.
A vertical crack in the ship runs around the entire vessel - meaning the ship is now only held together by its internal components. The ship's 44-year-old Filipino captain was charged with operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk and was released on bail on Wednesday at Tauranga District Court.